(This blog post features photos from Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick. The story of the formation of the famous Hopewell Rocks began over six hundred million years ago and so we thought the photos were appropriate in this context. We are asking people to reflect on the long-term consequences of our actions in this time of climate change and loss of biodiversity. We hope the photos will inspire readers to think outside the timeframe of their own lives and to consider how long it took to form the diverse life and features of our planet and how many generations of humans are yet to be born.)
In 1999 a Nobel-prize winning chemist coined the term “Anthropocene” for the current epoch of Earth history. The Anthropocene is defined as the epoch when humans shape the Earth at a global scale (Macfarlane, 2019). A few decades of human behaviour is changing the planet radically in ways that will be felt for many generations to come. The choices we make today will influence all future life on this planet in ways that no previous generation has done.
Jonas Salk, the immunologist who developed the polio vaccine, said that our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors. So at this critical juncture in human history it seems that we should be asking ourselves this question: Are we being good ancestors? We put that question and others to a few people of the Anthropocene. First, we approached Germaine Comeau.
Germaine Comeau from Meteghan River has spent most of her life in Clare. Writer, educator and translator, she studied at Collège Sainte-Anne, Ottawa University and La Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. She worked for 27 years as writer and editor at the Centre provincial de ressources pédagogiques (CPRP) while also producing musical, theatrical and artistic shows and videos highlighting Acadian culture. She wrote three published French novels: L’été aux puits secs, Loin de France and Laville. Retired from the CPRP since 2005, she continued her life-long search for truth and spiritual meaning by completing an online Unified Science course with the Resonance Science Foundation. In 2017 she self published a short English book titled 101 East that chronicles her quest for truth, social meaning and beauty in nature. Germaine enjoys gardening, ocean swims, offering a helping hand, and good meals with family and friends. She feels nature still has a lot to teach her about resiliency and wisdom. While pondering the interconnectedness of science, spirituality and life in the unified field, she entertains thoughts, notes and themes for a new writing project
The following are our questions and Germaine’s answers:
The greatest threats to civilization are happening on the timescale of decades or centuries and yet short-term mindsets dominate politics, business and our daily lives. We focus on the present day while neglecting problems that will endure for centuries – from climate change to ecological collapse. Do you think it is no longer enough to be good citizens, good neighbours, good friends and family members, but that we must also be good ancestors?
The concept of seeing ourselves as ancestors of future generations does evoke a strong sense of responsibility. Such responsibility is threefold: personal, social and political. Often, when looking at AI, genetic engineering, ecological degradation and climate change, we personally feel helpless and powerless. However, as we ponder the meaning of life by delving ever deeper into the interconnectedness of our own life with that of planet Earth with its myriad life forms, it becomes almost impossible to disregard our responsibility as ancestors of the future. The expansion of our consciousness in this regard begs us to question our role as protectors.
When we talk about human rights, should we include the rights of future humans?
Yes, I believe the sovereign rights of future humans should be protected by virtue of a universal constitution.
Should we have a ministry of the future?
I believe a ministry of the future is a good idea. Most political structures lack a far reaching vision of the future. Its role would be that of an overseer of all government policies in regards to the interconnectedness of all departments and would act as a unifying voice in their vision of a sustainable future.
Is it morally wrong to do things today that compromise the ability of future generations to survive? Should it be illegal to knowingly compromise the future?
Yes, I do believe that we are at an evolutionary standpoint where it should be morally and legally wrong to disregard policies and technological innovations that compromise the survival of the planet and the human species. At the present time, I sense that planet Earth has a greater chance of survival than humans. The planet is very resilient and it is an understanding of this resiliency that should inspire us as protectors of the future.
Is the pursuit of an endless growth economy compatible with being a good ancestor?
It is presently not compatible. Economic growth needs to be redefined in terms of ecological sustainability and a much more equitable distribution of wealth among all inhabitants of the Earth. The power of dominating corporations exacting policies of endless growth is not compatible with my vision of being a good ancestor.
Roman Krznaric, author of The Good Ancestor says that we have “colonized the future” which is to say that we treat it as a dumping ground for ecological degradation, nuclear waste and technological risk. Do you agree that we treat the future as if no one will be living there?
I can relate to this concept of earth as a dumping ground. I can see many examples of this. However, I also believe that we are now living at a very critical time in the evolution of our planet and its inhabitants. This evolution seems to be taking an exponentially accelerated pace in many domains. Given the ever widening and easily accessible information now available via the Internet, we as inhabitants of the planet have the tools necessary to grasp the precarious nature of potential consequences for the future but we also have access to promises of imminent advanced technologies that could bring about beneficial changes both in the way we conduct our daily working lives and in the development of much less destructive sources of abundant energy.
Given the extent of climate change and the loss of biodiversity and the inevitable restrictions and challenges these things will cause, are we already condemned to be bad ancestors?
What can we do to become good ancestors? How can we change our societies, institutions and ourselves to become good ancestors?
I think that we as individuals each have a personal responsibility to deepen our knowledge of both the problems and the solutions of our times by developing an open minded consciousness of our social roles and of our responsibilities as ancestors.
Are you a good ancestor?
I hope I am…
What legacy do you want to leave behind for future generations - as an individual and as a member of society?
I seldom think of a personal legacy other than having lived a life of integrity but I do hope our society will be remembered as having done the right things to meet the challenges of the critical and chaotic times that we are living now. Whether regarding biodiversity, gender and racial equity or a complete redefinition of political structures liberated from the grasp of corporate control, it is important for each and every one of us to hold a vision of a better world and live our lives as active contributors of a mindful ancestry.
If you have something to say about our responsibility to be good ancestors, let us know. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.